Fast Food Nation
I swore off fast food after reading "Fast Food Nation." After seeing "Fast Food Nation," the fictionalized movie inspired by the book, I'm thinking about swearing off Richard ("A Scanner Darkly") Linklater films.
It's as if Linklater took "Slackers" and tried to infuse it with the conclusions of an elementary school lecture on exploitation. Both Linklater and Eric Schlosser, the author of "Fast Food Nation", have made a major miscalculation. Who do they think the movie is for? Fans of the book are going to feel like they walked into the wrong theater while those oblivious to the book's thesis will likely wonder if the film has a point.
Linklater's meandering style works about as well as caramel on nachos. He follows lots of different characters, though four of them seem to form the film's nucleus. There's Don Anderson (Greg Kinnear), a fast food executive who's told to investigate why there are high levels of fecal matter in the meat. There are illegal immigrants Raul (Wilmer Valderrama) and Sylvia (Catalina Sandino Moreno), who depend on the meat-packing plant for their livelihood. Then there's Amber (Ashley Johnson), a fast food clerk for whom fast food forms a central part of her teenage existence.
Don't expect the detailed revelations of the book. Gee, working in fast food sucks. Who didn't know that one? And Linklater goes inside the meat plant kill floor for his climax. Where's the suspense there? Is there some way to make slaughtering cattle seem appealing that I don't know about? Seriously, it's like Linklater has been standing in front of us the whole film with a hat pretending to be a magician and suddenly at the end he pulls out a bunny. Shocking!
For the first half, I felt like I was playing "Spot the Slumming Star." All kinds of people have small roles in "Fast Food Nation," among them Kris Kristofferson, Bruce Willis, Ethan Hawke, Avril Lavigne and Esai Morales. Okay, Esai Morales isn't exactly a star, but he was in 1983's "Bad Boys" with Sean Penn and I spent a long time trying to figure out where I'd seen him. Anyway, ever get that sense you're watching acting practice?
The first half deals with Anderson who heads to Cody, Colorado, where the story congeals. While he discovers a few interesting tidbits, his big revelation seems to be that eating his employer's burgers may not be such a good idea. Then he just disappears and the last half of the film follows Raul, Sylvia and Amber. Linklater doesn't draw many conclusions and certainly doesn't place blame anywhere. The burgers aren't the only things that contain fecal matter.
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